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Guide to Renting in Rome

Published: 1 January 2014

Finding accommodation anywhere can be difficult, but in Rome a whole new set of obstacles is put in your way, including ever increasing prices. Having said that, since 2004 both rental and sales prices have been falling, putting the buyer or renter in a position to negotiate - a potential "renters/buyers market". Here at the FAO Staff Coop, we meet all landlords to discuss their prices and in any case negotiate downwards where it seems appropriate.

How Long?

In general, one can say that a long term lease is a stay of more than one year and is typically supported by the standard lease of 4+4 years (note: this means the landlord is obliged to give you a 4 year lease minimum and, after 4 years, he could rescind the contract only in certain cases). See the section on leasing contracts, below. In any event, you have to negotiate the chance for you to leave the apartment/house at your discretion only with a 4 to 6 weeks notice.

Short lets like a bed & breakfast solution are generally for a week or more and can go on indefinitely as the owner and tenant continue with the agreement. They are a great alternative to hotels if you are looking for somewhere to stay whilst searching for your dream apartment and are also arguably the best solution if you know that you are only going to be in Rome for a very short period. They are by definition without formal contract and therefore like an extended holiday let and for which you will pay considerably more. Having said that, steps can be taken to formalize the agreement. There are other types of contract that cover a medium-term period.

Otherwise, you could look at residences, a cross between a hotel and an apartment, which have the trimmings of a small apartment but with added services such as daily cleaning, reception desk, porter, telephone, laundry, etc. and, of course, come at a price accordingly.

What?

Most of us imagine an ancient palazzo apartment with rooftop terrace and parking in the basement or else a villa in the countryside with pool. Naturally, the reality of what is affordable is somewhat different. If you have young children, living in the centre will be difficult given the generally poor access and parking problems. However, one major surprise to people is the meaning of "unfurnished". An unfurnished apartment has no furniture, no light fittings and, quite often, no bathroom or kitchen! You will have to fit all of these yourself although do be aware that you may be able to negotiate with the owner to have the costs shared or even fully absorbed into the rent.

Where?

In terms of where to stay, do your research first. Commuting in Rome has it's problems, so do be conscious of how you would get to work and/or where you will be taking your children to school. Consider your life style and how important it would be to be near open spaces, shops, buzzing nightlife or whatever. Unfortunately, no one area has all of these. In broad terms, the closer you are to the centre of Rome, the more expensive it becomes. There are some exceptions, for example, San Lorenzo is overlooked in parts by the railway and the hideously ugly elevated motorway sections and yet has some interesting and charming corners and so should not be ignored.

Here is a brief overview of the areas:

HISTORICAL CENTER - the exciting part of Rome. Many restaurants, cinemas, cafés, shops and small food shops, most within walking distance, many buses, 2 Metro lines, the pollution that goes with it. Small streets which create a lively scene, noise and difficult on-the-street parking. Buildings can be centuries old; plumbing, heating, lack of lifts may reflect this. Trastevere is all of the above and plays the role of the bohemian, student area of Rome.

GENERAL CENTER Nomentana and Salaria, Parioli, (many doctors and lawyers live there) Prati and Aventino (a haven for diplomats) have turn of the century buildings, wider streets, restaurants, shops, small food shops, a few supermarkets, buses, easier parking, some public and private garages.

RESIDENTIAL AREAS Vigna Clara, Cassia (several international schools), Monteverde, Balduina and EUR, (many offices and close to the airport) built in the 1940s to 1960s, balconies usual, some restaurants, supermarkets, buses available, quiet streets and larger apartments for the same money. Characterized often by condominium gardens and garages, sports facilities and stores, some transportation service.

SUBURBAN LIFE Upper Cassia and Olgiata in the north, and Casal Palocco in the south offer comfortable homes with gardens.

Contracts and Leases A contract will be required by law when you find your middle/long-term property and may be signed by you or by the company paying for you to be here.

The legally accepted standard contract is called an "affitto libero" (free lease) also known as the "4+4" year lease and protects the tenant for the first 4 years. To quit when the first 4 years are up requires the owner to give 6 months notice - failure to do so guarantees the tenant a further 4 years of occupation. Having said that, the owner cannot give this termination notice unless he/she has very good reason to do so. Valid reasons include having to sell the property or needing to use the property again for themselves or their family. In other words, they cannot get you out for the purposes of getting someone else in at a higher rate. As the tenant, you have to negotiate the faculty to give notice at any time and without justifications; otherwise, standard contracts generally state a six-month notice only in case of "serious reasons". Note: If you have diplomatic status, there are clauses that you can have written into your contract, permitting you to give a much shorter notice period, typically two months.

At the second expiry (i.e. approaching the 8th year) both parties can negotiate new conditions or renounce at the contract renewal but in any case it is necessary to give six months notice in order to avoid an automatic lease renewal with the same conditions as before. With regard to the form of the notice, a registered letter is required.

Typically you would be expected to pay one or two months' pre-paid rent and condominium expenses (rental payments are always made in advance) and a maximum of 2/3 months security deposit. The deposit must be held by the owner in an interest-bearing account; at the termination of any year contract, the owner has to pay the tenant the legal interest upon the deposit amount. On termination of the contract, the owner must give the deposit back to the tenant less any amount to cover damages and/or outstanding bills when the tenent leaves the apartment. The owner is also able to increase your rent on an annual basis, in line with the retail index published by ISTAT, http://www.istat.it/English/index.htm.

At the time of signing the lease there are other costs to be covered as well. One is the tax for the registration of the contract which is split between the owner and tenant. It is calculated on the basis of 2% of the year's rental figure paid annually and you should be asked to pay it every year The registration of a contract by the owner makes him/her liable to tax which in Italy is very high. Note: If you have diplomatic status, you could be exempted from paying registration tax.

Some owners will therefore ask you to consider an unregistered or an unwritten contract. This is quite common (especially the proposal of unregistered contract) but you must be aware that this is against the law. In case of unregistered contract, you will be responsible to the Tax Office for evasion of the registration tax. On the other hand, in case of an unwritten contract, you will have no "proof" of being the legal tenant. This also will lead to difficulties in obtaining certain permissions such as getting a car parking permit where the on-road metered parking (blue lines) is in force. Alternatively you may be presented with what appears to be a standard lease but has in fact been heavily modified by the owner's lawyer. For example, you may be asked to sign a contract stating that you will leave after 1 or 2 years. This is very common, but can lead to unrest if you suddenly find that your contact has been extended. When renewing, the landlord will often take the opportunity to drastically increase the rent.

As a tenant, you will be responsible for day-to-day maintenance and expenses. "Extraordinary" expenses are the responsibility of the owner. Before embarking on a repair or a replacement, be sure to check under which category it falls.

These are the main aspects of the 4+4 lease contract.

According to your requirements, you may want to consider a different kind such as short term or touristic contracts.

Please be advised that short term contracts could have 18 months (called temporary contract, in Italian "contratto transitorio") or 3+2 years duration.

In case of a temporary contract (18 months), which is very commonly proposed to foreigners, parties must justify the shorter duration of contract with objective circumstances to be enclosed to the contract (for instance, the duration of a job contract), even if owners try to ignore this.

Notwithstanding, owners usually try to sign such contracts (very convenient for them from a tax point of view). You have also to consider that in such cases (including 3+2 years contracts) parties are not free to negotiate the rent to be paid. The rent due to the owner must be calculated according to lists drafted by the Municipality. Also in this regard, owners try to ignore this limitation and negotiate free rent. It is suggetsted to seek legal advice before considering/siging this type of contract.

Legal Aid

As you can imagine from the above, the 4+4 lease contract enables owners to determine, more or less as they wish, many aspects of the rental contract and as such, signing a contract is a major commitment and fraught with danger. Our advice is to seek the help of a lawyer unless you speak fluent Italian or else you are using an English-speaking advisor. If you are a FAO Staff Coop member, we can put you in touch with our lawyer who, for a modest fee, will give you solid advice. Naturally, they are experts in the field of housing contracts and the legal aspects and can offer a full range of personalized assistance. Please contact us for more information.

Note: The FAO Staff Coop only publishes the information on apartments/houses. The FAO Staff Coop is in no way responsible or liable for any eventual dispute that may arise between the tenants and owners.



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